A judge on Friday denied a request from the office of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry to recuse the entire Orleans Parish Criminal District Court bench from considering a subpoena for Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell’s personal financial records.
Ad hoc Judge Freddie Pitcher Jr., who was appointed by the state Supreme Court to hear the motion, said the controversial subpoena issue should remain before Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White.
Pitcher did not issue a written ruling on Friday, but he is expected to do so in the next few days.
Prosecutors are seeking to obtain Cantrell's bank records, but her attorney is seeking to quash their subpoena as a “harassing” intrusion into her personal life.
The face-off between state Attorney General Jeff Landry and New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell over Cantrell’s possible abuse of a city c…
Landry's office had argued that all the New Orleans judges are too dependent on city funding to fairly consider whether subpoenas should go out for the mayor-elect’s bank records. They also said the judges could be influenced by the fact that Cantrell’s father-in-law is Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell.
White and LaToya Cantrell’s lawyers said there was no reason for the local judge to recuse herself. In December, White rejected the attorney general’s request to have the Criminal District Court bench recused. She pointed out that state prosecutors brought their subpoena request to Criminal District Court in the first place, before Cantrell challenged the subpoena.
If Pitcher's ruling stands, White will rule at an undetermined date on whether the subpoena can go out. That hearing could be a high-stakes affair that helps determine the course of the attorney general’s investigation.
In the meantime, White has issued a stay on the subpoena, which means the Attorney General’s Office cannot collect the information it is seeking.
Landry’s office began probing Cantrell’s finances after a November report that she repaid thousands of dollars in charges to her City Council credit card just before she qualified to run for mayor.
Although the full extent of the probe is unclear, court filings have confirmed that the attorney general is seeking not just Cantrell’s city credit card records but also her personal bank records.
Cantrell takes office in May.
Landry's office declined to say whether it will appeal Pitcher's ruling.
"Our goal was to have a neutral and detached magistrate hear this motion to recuse. The Supreme Court agreed and today we had our day in court. The court has decided that Judge White can hear the defense's motion to quash the subpoenas. We look forward to having that matter heard and moving forward," said Ruth Wisher, a spokeswoman for the attorney general.
An attorney for Cantrell praised Pitcher’s ruling.
“We’re pleased,” said lawyer Billy Gibbens.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has appointed a retired Baton Rouge judge, Freddie Pitcher Jr., to decide whether the Criminal District Court benc…